POLICY STATEMENT – REPUBLIC OF UGANDA WSIS SUMMIT 2019
Dr Nora Mulira Head of the Uganda delegation to the World Summit of the Internet Society Forum 2019 presented this Policy Statement to distinguished delegates. She recognised protocol including; The Chairman, Excellencies and Honourable Ministers, Ambassadors, The Secretary-General of the ITU, Mr Houlin Zhao, ITU Bureau Directors and all Distinguished delegates.
On behalf of the Government and People of Uganda, I congratulate and commend the government of Switzerland, ITU and the WSIS Facilitator organisations for hosting this high-level meeting that provides a much-needed forum to have a meeting of minds and share experiences on how to further achieve the sustainable development goals through leveraging ICTs.
The government of Uganda through its Vision 2040 is committed to transforming the livelihoods of its citizens from the 3rd world to Middle-income status. This ambitious goal can only be achieved through leveraging ICTs as the highest priority enabler in the transformation of societies.
To birth appropriate interventions, we as the decision makers have had to step back and evaluate, define and strip our communities into specific groups to fully understand the uniqueness of the transformational needs of each group. Focussing our minds on inclusiveness means that we are committed “to leave no one behind.”
With a population of over 40 Million; Uganda has one of the youngest and most rapidly growing populations in the world; its total fertility rate is among the world’s highest at 5.8 children per woman. Over 50% of this population is of young people below 35 years old, and 25% are persons leaving with one form of disability or another.
Our country demographics as highlighted above have necessitated us as policymakers to go back to the drawing board and project the future we want and how it can be attained; through leveraging ICTs as the most robust enabler.
With a majority young population, Uganda has a high level of dependency. Our demographics also project a promising opportunity for future markets and workforce. As policymakers and influencers, it was incumbent on us to convince our colleagues to view ICT as the most reliable tool; and we are succeeding.
With our vision in mind, we know where we are (3rd world); and where we want to go (Middle-income status). We also know how to get there; leveraging/harnessing ICTs and getting more people online. The foundational question to us all was; “ How do we get the people whose lives we need to transform; online?
Access: Our initial goal was to ensure that there was access to the ICT infrastructure/networks. This Uganda has achieved with over 90% voice coverage countrywide and 60% broadband internet coverage countrywide.
Affordability: In a 3rd world country that has high dependency ratios, ICT products and services have to be affordable because they are competing with basic needs like food, water and health. Uganda’s stable and predictable ICT regulatory environment has attracted over ten players into the market. This competition has considerably brought the cost of ICT products and services down to one of the lowest in the region.
Applicability: After ensuring that the services are available and that they are affordable, the Govt of Uganda is now promoting applicability and relevance of access to the internet. This drive is intended to continue exposing the different categories of our population to the boundless opportunities that can be accrued from getting connected. This we realised works in tandem with equipping the masses with a minimum level of digital literacy
At the curriculum level, Uganda has made ICT a compulsory part of the primary and secondary subjects. This intervention coupled with our robust universal Access program that has seen 90 % of the public schools equipped with computer labs that have connectivity to the internet. In doing so, we are familiarising them with ICTs as work tools, the opportunities that are created through connectivity to the internet, as well as training them to become more productive.
The Digital Literacy & Skilling Campaign for SMEs.
Over the years, the Govt of Uganda has mostly focused on underserved and unserved communities by extending ICT service and digital literacy campaigns around schools and majorly giving basic skills to community members. More recently, to address the high levels of unemployment and boost the profitability of the informal sector; there has been collaborated effort to start a digital literacy program targeting the private sector (mainly SMEs).
This project was motivated by the belief that SMEs can stimulate the uptake of broadband services if they start to perceive ICT as a tool that can assist them in the efficient and more profitable running of their businesses. The digital literacy and skilling campaign provides SMEs with a breadth of skills, which will improve their ability to rely on ICT in their daily operations. This project targets Mechanics, metal fabricators, hairdressers, carpenters, tailors and others.
This program is in partnership with a local federation of Small Medium Enterprises and the internationally recognised International Computer Driver License (ICDL). The program covers basic knowledge about the use of basic ICT functionalities and the internet in their businesses, to help them take advantage of the business opportunities in the digital economy.
This four-week training takes place in higher tertiary institutions with ICDL accreditation, and it usually targets between 300-500 SME participants. So far over 100,000 persons have been trained.
Targeted interventions – Refugee Host Communities
With over 1.2 Million refugees, the Govt has partnered with UNHCR and other local and international development partners to harmonise efforts towards ensuring the connectivity of refugees. We do not only host refugees; we are now working towards transforming the lives of the refugees through collaborated efforts to create a framework that can allow them to access SIM cards and the all services that are available on the digital platforms including digital financial services.
Persons with special needs
As we craft more targeted inclusion initiatives, the Govt of Uganda has just concluded a study on access to ICTs by persons with special needs. The principal objective of this study was to understand the extent of the challenges of these persons and therefore identify critical areas of intervention to inform proactive investment by Govt and development partners.
These and more are some of the highlights of Uganda’s “inclusiveness” Journey as a factor of where we want to go, and a nation visa vies where we are. This has not been without challenges, of inadequate local and international collaboration, unintended consequences of internet access, financing and lack of empirical data based planning.
Participation in high-level forums such as this is one way to strengthen our resolve to “Leave no one Behind”. Our ultimate goal is to transform the lives of our people and one of the most sustainable ways is by getting them online.
I thank You